Archive for April 2008

Who wears short shorts?

You do, young lady, if you care anything about the nation’s economy:

Although there are scoffers, the hemline theory of market fluctuation has always been remarkably accurate. In the twenties and sixties skirts were high, and so was the economy. In the thirties and forties, as women tripped over their dresses, the market was in the tank, and the economy sputtered in slow motion.

Miniskirts and short shorts were all the rage in 1987. The designers then decided that short skirts were ridiculous and we had Black Monday.

And evidently we haven’t learned:

This year long dresses are all over Milan, Paris, New York and London. Mid-calf skirts and floor skimmers are definitely the trend. And short shorts are far and few between.

This won’t necessarily actually work, of course — correlation and causation have only a passing acquaintance with one another — but it couldn’t hurt, could it? Besides, our leading hysterics scienticians say it’s supposed to be hot this summer.

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Dry up

One hundred gallons per person, per day, that’s it:

A small town in Central Florida is considering forcing a 100-gallon-per-person daily limit on water for its residents.

Some residents in Oakland, which is located south of Apopka, are outraged over the proposed limit on water and said the rapid growth in the area must stop until there is no longer a shortage.

How short are they?

Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty said that if the county does not have a 40 percent reduction in water use, the aquifer will not have enough water to sustain the county.

Similar to surrounding cities, water bills in Oakland order “no watering on any day between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. or face a $500 fine.”

Local 6 reported that an average resident can use up to 90 gallons of water before leaving the house for the day.

Fits says one answer might be desalinization plants:

Florida, along with several other southern states hit hard by the recent droughts, are actually thinking of creating desalinization plants, something they KNOW will take power away from local governments because if they have one less fear to hold over peoples heads they become less powerful.

Of course desalinization should have been tried decades ago, but holding millions of people hostage was simply loads more fun. Towns continue to grow, local authorities rake in the cash from “impact fees” and pray that the newcomers are minorities so that they can then beg the Feds for more handouts.

Meanwhile, Orange County, California is running a Groundwater Replenishment System, which captures and purifies water from the county’s sewage system, bringing it up to beyond drinking-water quality, and then injects it into the aquifer underneath. Jennifer Barone reports in Discover (May) that “desalinating seawater, another option that had been under consideration, would be considerably more expensive than recycling — from 50 percent to 400 percent more so.” These numbers may vary in Florida, of course.

And I note from my own water bill, just arrived on Saturday, that in only four of the last twelve months did I use as much as 3,000 gallons a month — a hundred gallons a day.

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Twelfth anniversary

I’m still trying to figure out how this Web site lasted longer than my marriage, longer than all but one of my jobs, longer than most of the cars I’ve owned.

Some largely-recycled thoughts on the matter here.

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Because you can’t get enough weather

At least, that’s the general opinion here in Tornado Alley.

KOCO-TV, the local ABC affiliate, has been running a Weather Blog for a couple of years now; I noticed tonight that they’re airing a separate all-weather subchannel. (I don’t know if this is 7.1 or whatever; it comes in at 222 on Cox Digital Cable, and we cheapskates who still have analog cable hooked up to our HD sets can get it on QAM at 84-200 84-4, when Cox bothers to throw the switch. It didn’t seem to be up this morning at 6-ish.) What with NBC’s Weather Plus already in place, this makes two all-weather channels, not including The Weather Channel. Tulsa has a similar arrangement.

Now admittedly this is not Los Angeles, where Harris K. Telemacher can prerecord a week’s worth of forecasts at a time, but I’m wondering just how far can we go before we cross the threshold of overkill. (Cell phones, you say? NWS is already there.)

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A truly slick idea

For those of us for whom “winter” is more than a theoretical construct, half a foot of snow on the roads can be shrugged off, but half an inch of ice will kill us deader than Chris Dodd’s Presidential campaign. And the scariest variation on this theme is dubbed “black ice”: you can’t see it on the pavement, but it’s there, waiting to send you skidding into the median. Gwendolyn is good about reporting the temperature outside, but she can’t tell how the roads are with a mere sensor.

Enter the French. The research firm Eurovia is testing a varnish which changes color from white to pink when the surface temperature drops below freezing. Stripe a road with this stuff, and you won’t have to wonder if it’s just wet or actually frozen.

Obviously the aforementioned half a foot of snow will cover up the stripes, but then you can see half a foot of snow. In the Dakotas, or some other place where they measure annual snowfall in yards, this might not be so useful. But down here, where freezing rain strikes fear into the driver’s heart on a regular basis, it’s bound to be at least something of a boon, provided it actually works.

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Unanimous it isn’t

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says he’ll vote against the Seattle SuperSonics’ relocation to Oklahoma City:

“My preference is the Sonics stay in Seattle. My prejudice is against having a Dustbowl Division in this part of the country because I don’t think in the big picture that helps the NBA and I think the bigger market helps the NBA.”

Cuban points out, sensibly, that the Sonics draw from far beyond King County, Washington:

“Once you’ve got an established fan base for a city that’s been around as long as Seattle, there’s more value to the NBA that just the 13,000 showing up in Seattle [for games],” he said. “They actually go to road games. You see people here wearing Sonics jerseys. The other thing I don’t [think] people realize is you guys pull from Vancouver, you guys pull from different parts of Canada, it’s just a short drive.”

Dallas is 200 miles from Oklahoma City. By the standards of this part of the country, it’s just a short drive. You think maybe Cuban thinks the Oklahoma City [fill in name of team] might cut into the Mavs fan base?

Still, Cuban doesn’t think his view will prevail:

“[L]ike everything else in the NBA, [the vote] will be 29-1.”

I’m thinking 28-2 myself.

Update, 18 April: Since Bennett presumably isn’t allowed to vote on the relocation, it will be 28-1 if Cuban is the lone holdout. I still think there will be at least one more, which would make it 27-2.

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This never seems to happen in Regina

If those damned vandals don’t knock it off, we may have to change the name of the village altogether:

Residents living in a graffiti-plagued village in Merseyside are being asked to consider changing its name to tackle vandals who alter signs in the village.

Lunt, which dates back to Medieval times, has been repeatedly targeted by vandals who change the “L” to a “C”.

Not everyone is pushing for the change, though:

David Roughley, whose family has farmed in Lunt since 1851, added: “At the end of the day we live in Lunt and we don’t want to change because of a few yobs. It is the vandals who should change, not the village.”

The proposed new name is “Launt,” with no change in pronunciation.

(Via Fark.)

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QAMmed together

A reader asked for the QAM channels in Oklahoma City. I posted these once to a QAM wiki, but it seems to have disappeared, and there have been changes anyway, so here we go:

69-25  KOKH-HD (Fox)
69-34  KOCB-HD (The CW)
72-9    KSBI-DT
72-24   KOCM-DT (Daystar)
73-3    KFOR-DT (NBC)
73-5    KTUZ-DT (Telemundo)
73-8    KOCO-DT (ABC)
73-10   KWTV-DT (CBS)
73-11   KOCB-DT (The CW)
73-12   KOKH-DT (Fox)
73-16   KAUT-DT (MyNetwork TV)
73-17   KOPX-DT (i)
73-19   C-SPAN2
73-68   C-SPAN
83-100  KOHC-DT (Azteca)
84-4    KFOR-HD (NBC)
84-5    KOCO-HD (ABC)
84-222    KOCO Weather
88-7    Cox Channel
88-14   KETA-DT (PBS)
94-22   GoScout Homes
98-4    TV Guide Channel
98-13   QVC
98-18   OKC-ETC
98-20   City Channel 20
98-21   Univision Oklahoma
98-23   KTBO-DT (Trinity)
98-69   HSN
98-116  Jewelry TV
98-118  ONTV4U
98-119  TV Superstore
101-70  Superstation WGN
101-71  GoScout Autos
101-910 ShopNBC
102-112 OETA Okla
105-113 OETA Create
105-114 OETA Kids
106-9   KWTV-HD (CBS)
106-13  OETA HD
109-59  NBC Weather Plus

These are subject to change without notice. If my channel scan didn’t pick it up, it’s not here; additions and supplemental information will be welcomed.

Update, 10 May: All the HD channels seem to have vanished, but no: they’ve simply moved around a bit. I had an explanation for this earlier, but it didn’t seem to correspond to the facts.

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Notes for a summer’s eve

To quote Rachel Lucas:

I just want to say that Richard Warman is a giant douchebag who is simply itching for a butthurtin’.

Fond as I am of Ms Lucas, she may not be 100 percent accurate in this instance. I went so far as to check the lesser-known facts about Mr Warman, and nowhere therein is it suggested that he is substantially above average in height.

Although this tidbit perhaps seems relevant:

[L]et’s just say that if he had a blog it would be named “3 Inches of Fury.”

So maybe a little editing is called for in this instance. “Overbearing”? Certainly. “Self-aggrandizing”? No doubt about it. “Enemy of free speech”? Demonstrably so. But “giant”? Maybe not so much.

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“Spring is here?” Andrew Ian Dodge asks as he presents this week’s Carnival of the Vanities. I’m pretty sure it is here: not only is my office flooded to a depth of 2 cm (again), but we’re starting to see more dogs, in and out of costumes, around town. (If this latter concept does not disturb you, here are 278 of them.)

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And now… here’s Donna!

Citibank might want to apologize for this last apology:


On Wednesday, April 9th you received an email with the subject line “Get $25 From Citibank”. We recently discovered that the email we sent to you incorrectly contained the salutation “Dear Donna Robinson” rather than “Dear CHARLES G HILL“.

Inasmuch as I hadn’t read it anyway, I didn’t take umbrage. I did, however, fish the offending email out of the spam trap, and guess what? No mention of “Donna Robinson” anywhere in the text.

At the far end of the stove is a back-burner story outline about an invisible woman; she has a name already, but I’m tempted to run the old search-and-replace and turn her into Donna Robinson, just for the sheer heck of it.

On the other hand, if Citibank wants to send Donna twenty-five bucks, I’ll see to it that it’s disposed of in a non-wasteful manner.

Addendum: Apparently I’m not alone in my Donnaness.

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Longoria in excelsis

I’ve heard lots of arguments against HB 1804, but this one is new to me:

Hispanics are freakin’ hot.

Seriously, have you seen Eva Longoria or Wilmer Valderrama?

Their naturally golden skin, dark eyes and dark hair.


I’d point out here that most of our local Latinos don’t look like Eva or Wilmer — just like most of our local Caucasians don’t look like [insert names of two white hotties] — and if we’re going to enforce aesthetics at the state level, I should probably start packing now before that telltale knock at the door.

Still, I jump-start my heart five days a week with the babes of Telemundo’s Cada Día, so I’m not going to take serious exception to this plan.

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And the number of cylinders shall be four

Hybrids, schmybrids: cash-strapped consumers are flocking to conventional four-cylinder cars in this age of pricey fuelstuffs. And it’s mainly because the hybrids still cost a lot:

Despite the increasing popularity of the Prius by Toyota Motor Corp., hybrids made up only 3% of the overall market for new cars last year. The sales gap between the relatively new technology and the smallest conventional engines is actually growing.

“For now, the easiest, cheapest way for new-car shoppers to get better mileage is to choose a model with a conventional four-cylinder engine. And they are,” said J.D. Power and Associates’ Jason Rothkop. He added in a conference call that it’s getting more difficult for hybrids to command a premium of up to $5,000 when customers are counting every penny.

Another J. D. Power factoid:

The four-cylinder engine now holds 37% of the U.S. market, up from 30% just three years ago when gas last averaged less than $2 a gallon.

Well, you could have had a V-8, but:

[Standard & Poor’s] said that over the past three years, vehicles equipped with eight-cylinder engines saw their market share drop to 18% from 28%. V-8 engines command an $8,000 premium per vehicle over the V-6 models, while the four-cylinder models offer a $4,000 discount, on average.

Whether S&P is including inline sixes with the V-6s, I couldn’t tell you. And there are threes and fives and tens and twelves out there. (If you’re considering the sixteen-cylinder Bugatti Veyron, you’re probably not worried about the price tag.)

Me? I’ve owned six cars, three with four-bangers, three with sixes.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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Me gotta go

This being “Louie Louie” Day, it is incumbent upon me as an advocate of the “three chords, no waiting” school of music to give you something to celebrate with.

Which means this:

Richard Berry, who wrote this tune back in 1957 (and who would have been seventy-three today), made this appearance at a “Louie Louie” parade in San Francisco in 1988, a fundraiser for the Leukemia Society of America. The band is local surf outfit The Shockwaves.

Eric Predoehl, who produced this video, notes:

Those that know the history of Richard Berry know that he had physical disabilities due to some childhood injuries. He took up music partially because of his disabilities. In this video, you can see him DANCING, and that’s a wonderful thing!

And if you never quite figured out the words, now’s your chance.

(Suggested by Jennifer.)

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Round it goes

An online vendor of wedding bands lists some of the things they’ve been asked to engrave inside those bands. Some of them stir the soul: “The other half of me is you” sounds like something I wish I’d had the opportunity (and the reason) to say. And then there’s the stuff that makes me cringe:

  • Save and redeem for fun prizes
  • I love you like a fat kid loves cake
  • Better than ice cream
  • Happy now? Good.

If you should prefer the sublime to the ridiculous, somebody said simply “Ruth 1:16-17,” which, you may remember, King James’ translators rendered this way:

And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.

Which is the whole point, right?

(Seen at Pop Culture Junk Mail.)

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Timelessness illustrated

I’m just as shocked as you are: G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) has a Bacon number of 4.

“The comedy of man survives the tragedy of man,” said Chesterton, though not about this.

(Via Dawn Eden, who, as an uncredited extra in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, presumably has a Bacon number of 2 1.)

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Quote of the week

I’ve had five decades and more to embrace my inner pessimist, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job of it. But I’m a piker next to the Doomsday Industry as described by Arthur St. Antoine in the May Motor Trend:

How homo sapiens managed to claim the top of the food chain mystifies me, for no other creature on earth — with the possible exception of the manicured French poodle — exhibits such unrelenting silliness. Never in all of recorded history has life been so good for so many, yet all humans can do is bite their nails with worry about the gloomy future that awaits us all. Best-selling books, the nightly news, and countless Web sites stoke the fire of fear: Life is awful and getting worse.

Really? Let me throw out a few facts. In 1900, the average life expectancy for an American was 47 years. In 2004, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, it was 78. In 1900, Americans devoted 50 percent of their incomes to putting food on the table. In the late 1990s, that figure had dropped to 10 percent. By the end of the 20th century, despite a fivefold increase in the U.S. population, forests continued to cover one-third of our land space (the world’s forests have actually increased in size since the 1940s). Americans have three times more leisure hours over their lifetimes than did their ancestors in the late 19th century. I could go on and on.

“What’s this doing in a car magazine?” you might ask.

Because the same Armageddon mentality now runs rampant in the auto world. People talk about alternative fuels and smaller cars and “the end of a golden age” as if it’s all downhill from here. Bull hockey.

And a reminder:

The progress wrought by human ingenuity knows no bounds. Sure, there’ll be blips, short-term downs, but the long-term trend is decidedly up.

Or, as Tamara K. points out:

Once we were freezing to death in caves, worried about becoming lion chow, and now we have so thoroughly conquered the needs of food, shelter, and safety that we are free to lounge about and think “You know, I think life would be about perfect if only my poop chute were a whiter shade of pale.”

Speaking of assholes, entirely too many of our ostensible leaders got to their semi-lofty positions by trying to persuade us that things suck. Even I, a long-time chronicler of suckage, know better than that:

The thing to remember is that pessimism is a tool: you can sit around and fondle it all day, or you can put it to work. I get some serious mileage out of mine. Project due in two weeks? I’ll tell you it can’t be done for three and make both of us believe it, and then finish on day nine. Impossible to recreate this file? Here’s the backup copy. Woman of my dreams coming down the hallway? I’ll make sure I’m awake, just in case.

Our movers and shakers, alas, tend to be fondlers.

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Still a Croc

Cyprus by CrocsThere are brand extensions, and then there’s this: Crocs with a three-inch heel. It’s called Cyprus, and it’s available in half a dozen plasticky-looking color schemes. “Fashion fused with comfort for the ultimate summer style,” they say, and well, I hope it’s comfy, because it looks about as fashionable as a Nehru suit, if a smidgen more contemporary. Shoewawa gave it “Ugly Shoe of the Week,” a pretty brazen award given the sheer fugliness of some of the shoes they’ve recently reviewed. Me, I’ve seen worse, and perhaps so have you.

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Lessons from life (another in a series)

Thirty-six hours after a three-inch rainfall is way too soon to bring out the lawn mower.

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Belief versus bucks

We open with Matthew 6:19-21 (English Standard Version):

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Dr. Lisa Keister has now discovered that religious conservatives tend to take this seriously:

According to data analyzed by Keister, a Duke University sociologist, the median net worth for conservative Protestants in 2000 was $26,000, compared to the national median of $66,200.

This really shouldn’t surprise anyone, though:

[C]onservative Protestants tend to have lower levels of education and begin large families at younger ages, with fewer women working outside the home. These factors make it difficult for many conservative Protestant families to save money or accumulate wealth.

But the bottom line is purely Biblical. Think “faithful steward”:

“The one big difference is the conservative Protestants’ assumption that God is the owner of money, and people are managers of it,” Keister said. “They are doing with their money what God wants them to do with it, so that does mean that it is not sitting in their bank accounts.”

Not to mention their unwillingness to render it unto Caesar.

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Dropping like flies

There are times when I think that every airline in America except for the Big Dinosaur Carriers will be gone in 90 days.

But then I figure that there will always be a market for an airline with something special to offer.

Addendum: Jeff Jarvis says it’s all over:

You simply can’t treat people this way and survive. We all hate the airlines. We hate the experience on the plane and in the airport. We should fear for our safety, given American’s shoddy (and, one wonders, fraudulent) maintenance work. (As the Times said this morning, at least the FAA is doing its job.) The airlines never see themselves as our advocates, friends, servers; no, they are our prison wardens and enemies as they fight down legislation that mandates they should give us the crudest amenities a prisoner would get: clean water, air, and a toilet. The economics of the industry as it is being run today are unsustainable. And apart from the all-business-class airlines I try to fly every time I can (Eos, Silverjet, and there are more coming), there is not one visible bit of innovation — not one attempt to get out of this mess — visible in the industry.

One saving grace in all this: if the airlines go, they take (most of) the Transportation Security Administration with them.

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Ten-plus out of ten

The perfect woman, says Roissy in DC, has to be imperfect:

She has to have at least one flaw you can exploit to keep her feet on the ground and her head out of the clouds. Plus, it makes her more human and, through osmosis, makes you more human. This type is not hard to find since every woman has flaws. The only perfect women are the ones who are made perfect by worshipful betas.

But don’t ever say you’re not looking for the perfect woman. You are, and that should be your mindset. You don’t set out searching for your soulmate selling yourself short with a list of lover exemptions that gives her a pass on pleasing you.

Maybe I’ve spent too much time talking to Chuck, but “selling short” to me has always meant selling something you didn’t actually own.

As to Roissy’s personal desiderata, I endorse some outright, endorse others with reservations, and recoil in horror from some. Different strokes for different folks, and all that. Then again, he refers to himself as “a romantic at heart,” a description I’ve tried, and failed, to affix to myself: if I didn’t know better, and technically I don’t, I’d swear I’d sacrificed all the passion on the altar of vague contentment.

(Courtesy of Michael Blowhard.)

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Gommel, you magnificent bastards

Every now and then I look in the referrer logs for something other than fodder for the “Strange search-engine queries” series, and one common reaction is “What in the hell are they reading?” So I follow the track, and sometimes I find myself just fast-forwarding through the next few days’ worth of archives, partly to see if I can remember the context, partly to see if I’d done anything else worth reading back then.

Back in January, McGehee announced the formation of a political party of sorts, dubbed “Get Offa My Lawn!” A hundred comments rolled up in the next ten days, including one from southeast-Oklahoma operative The Local Malcontent, which went like this:

Odd, though, that no one has thought of this before.

Actually, someone had. From my own archives, June 2004:

Heh — the slow decline and inescapable knowledge of the inexorable death to come is what conservatism’s all about. That’s probably why people turn conservative as they get older: at some point the admiration one feels towards the young and idealistic turns to irritation and all you want is for the hippies to get off your lawn. Well, that’s how it took me anyway. (By the way, I think I’ll form the Get Off My Lawn! Party. The GOML. “Gommel” will become a word in fifty years time. You just wait.)

No, I didn’t say that. She did.

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Doing a slow burn

In 1995, you had no choice in the matter:

The burner burned only at 1x, meaning each CD took approximately 75 minutes to burn. The best deal we found at the time for blank CDs was 10 for $100, plus shipping. Jeff, Johnny and I split the first 10 pack. The burner was external, connected via a parallel port, and contained its own hard drive. To burn a CD, first your data had to be copied to the unit’s internal hard drive, after which it was burned to a CD. The whole process took hours to complete — then again, at $10 a CD, I wasn’t in any hurry to “burn” through all my media. This was back in the day when you didn’t dare open a program or tax your computer in any way while you were burning. The slightest hiccup could cause your CD to fail, taking your ten bucks with it in the process.

Over the years I produced entirely too many coasters; in fact, I have a DVD+R that is serving as exactly that, even as I type.

I still, however, disable everything I can before I start burning discs on my PC. Force of habit, doncha know.

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Bottomed out, a blog with a slightly-skewed perspective on San Francisco-area real estate, has turned up a really scary MLS listing, far from home and far from comforting: a three-bedroom house on Detroit’s west side being offered at $100.

One hundred bucks.

It’s small (690 square feet), it’s in dismal condition (and is being sold “as is”), and if it doesn’t sell, the seller may just donate it to a “charitable organization,” assuming one could be found that would take it.

On the plus side, from the looks of things, you’d pretty much have the block to yourself.

Assuming 20 percent down and a 6-percent loan, the mortgage payment (principal and interest) would be 48 cents a month for thirty years.

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Gently used, only 2000 miles

I don’t know if this is the last remaining 1902 Peugeot 5hp Bébé, but it’s being sold — for £100,000 — and to be legally salable in Britain, it had to pass the MOT Test. Which, happily, it did.

The little two-seater has been in the same family since it was brought over from France. The Bébé has a single-cylinder engine displacing 0.65 litre, and shaft drive to the rear wheels. Suspension appears to be leaf springs all around. Top speed is 28 mph. I have no idea as to its fuel economy.

A reader of the Daily Mail article linked herein asked: “So just how did it pass the emissions test?” The answer is here:

An important aspect of the MOT is that the vehicle’s equipment is Tested, by and large, to the standard to be expected during its year of manufacture. For example, the brakes and emissions of a 1919 Morris will not be Tested to the same criteria as a 2006 Mercedes.

It seems unlikely that this Peugeot would have even a rudimentary PCV valve.

(Via Fark.)

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I regret to inform you that I am not making this up:

Japanese cell phones already do stuff like play crazy ring tones and double as wallets, but now they’re also going to be giving off signature scents.

The new phones by NTT DoCoMo will be equipped with fragrance cartridges that are accessed by IR when you download a fragrance playlist onto your handset. The company hopes to partner with mobile content providers so that you can pair a scent with your horoscope, the weather report, your favorite web video, or some romantical music.

Where’s John Waters when we need him?

(Via Popgadget.)

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Strange search-engine queries (115)

Time once again to shake out the SiteMeter and see if anything funny falls out.

bikiniless women:  I don’t think Sister Mary Discipline has a bikini, but this probably isn’t the visual you were hoping for.

hot prego chicks:  Because nothing enhances a woman’s appearance like pasta sauce.

transexual airline pilots:  No reason they can’t, and no “cockpit” jokes, please.

tayshaun prince looks like curious george:  But George never averaged 14 points per game.

snakes in the apartment complexes,okc:  Probably just leasing agents.

defecting girl naturist:  I hope she’s seeking asylum in some place that’s warm.

“you’re giving me a haddock”:  Now that’s unmitigated gar.

is sometimes one word:  Sometimes it is. And there are some times when it isn’t.

encouraged by mom to crossdress:  Doubtful. Mom doesn’t want you picking through her closet.

$12 gas:  Bite your tongue.

difference between a boy and a girl:  If you really don’t know this, perhaps you shouldn’t spend so much time on the Internet.

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Taking on the metaquestions of our time

Every so often, I find I’m saying to myself, “Self, you know what? You really ought to get a life.”

Then I brood for a while, wondering with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and Peggy Lee if that’s all there is, and eventually deciding that I’m not doing so badly after all.

Sometimes this decision is assisted by obvious evidence from elsewhere that there are those in greater need of a life than I, some of whom I happened upon today at this thread, which seeks to resolve the question of who is better known outside the relatively-narrow realm of comics: Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman of Marvel’s Fantastic Four, or Catwoman, occasional foil for DC’s Batman.

Despite my early crush on Sue, I’m inclined to give Catwoman the nod, if only because she showed up on a semi-regular basis on the mid-1960s Batman television series, played by Eartha Kitt or Julie Newmar, individuals who tend to stick in one’s mind. (I wonder if they drank TaB.) On the other hand, the fact that I’m giving serious attention to this question suggests that I really ought to get a life.

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Not exactly a banner achievement

The company’s response to last week’s flooding seems to be fragrance-oriented. This morning, I was the first to cross the threshold — the usual 6-am contingent was conspicuous by its absence — and the place smelled like, as I told El Jefe a few minutes ago, “two parts the Incredible Hulk after a hard weekend, and one part Vicks Vapo-Rub.”

Not that the 79-cents-a-yard carpeting is going to suffer any ill effects or anything.

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Barbecue: variations on a theme

Wisdom from Terry Teachout:

I’ve eaten it everywhere from Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City to Rub BBQ in Manhattan, my adopted home. I’m not a particularly fussy eater, and I like most of the better-known regional variations of barbecue that I’ve run across in my travels. When all is said and done, though, the kind I like best is the kind I grew up with, and I suspect that most people lucky enough to have grown up eating barbecue feel the same way about the kind they grew up with. I’ve never met anyone who underwent a full-tilt adult conversion to a different style of barbecue. Crushes, yes: I myself once experienced a brief but intense attraction to the vinegary-tasting pulled pork served in eastern North Carolina. But my underlying loyalty to the dry-rubbed rib remained, and remains, unshaken.

I try to hit at least one barbecue place every World Tour, and it’s always good — and it’s always different. My away-from-home benchmark, I suppose, is the Kansas City version, since I’m there at least once a year; I will, however, have to check out the offerings in southeast Missouri, Mr Teachout’s boyhood home, next time I’m out that way. Clearly he understands the dynamic:

You couldn’t spend thirty seconds listening to my brother without knowing that he grew up in southeast Missouri, and Mrs. T and I had occasion last week to spend a few hours with a very nice woman from Massachusetts whose accent is strong enough to cut sheet metal. And just as our regional speech has contrived to defy the flattening effects of radio and TV, so has our regional cooking retained its individuality in spite of the ubiquity of the Big Mac. Nor should that surprise anybody: a land big enough to contain multitudes has room enough for every imaginable kind of barbecue, up to and including the fancy kind.

I expect, this summer, to be reacquainting myself with the Texas varieties.

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A tale from the realty-based community

Now here’s a title to reckon with: AP Poll: More Avoid Buying Homes.

For a moment, neither of them spoke; the words were there, somehow, but the breath to convey them wasn’t in place yet.

Finally: “That was a close one.”

“No kidding. We really dodged a bullet that time.”

They looked at each other, looked at the FOR SALE sign, and looked at each other once more.

“What will we tell the children?” she asked.

He thought for a moment. “We’ll tell them,” he said, “that we were damn lucky to escape with our lives, and that we don’t want to talk about it now.”

“Works for me,” she said, taking his hand, and the two of them walked back to the car.

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A meme for a Monday evening

Oh, I’m sorry: that’s supposed to be “a meme for a mundane evening.”

Favorite laundry detergent: The new Purex 2x concentrate in the white bottle. It’s cheap, it’s not loaded up with dyes and scents, and half the prescribed amount works just fine.

Favorite item used for an unintended purpose: Misburned CD-Rs and DVDs, often derided as “coasters,” get used as actual coasters around here.

Favorite way to buy music: Nothing quite compares with finding an actual record at an actual record store.

How clean is your car? Inside, very; outside, less so.

How clean is your apartment/house/room? Relatively hygienic, though more than a little cluttered.

How clean is your office? Relatively filthy, though more than a little cluttered.

Favorite weekly free time: Varies with the week, but usually it happens on Saturday.

Is there a word, phrase, or gesture that is identifiably yours? I start more sentences with “Not that” than anyone else I’ve ever seen. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Most effective medicine for one (or more) of your ailments: My superexpensive blood-pressure meds work far better than I’d hoped, although I pay through the nose for this efficiency, as it offends the cost-cutters who run all the drug programs these days.

A favorite thing you try to sell/push/encourage your friends to try: Woot.

Favorite new (or new-to-you) thing: Legal downloadable music without DRM.

This is open to anyone who’d like to play along; I swiped it from Terry.

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Faint praise, you might say

Bomani Jones has a sort of grudging admiration for Sonics owner Clay Bennett:

Think about it. Clay Bennett and his buddies bought the Sonics because they want to have a basketball team in their hometown. That’s all it was. Oklahoma City is definitely growing — it’s certainly not the city it was when I visited my grandparents there as a kid — but I can’t imagine what kind of book-cooking would have to take place to make me believe the Sonics would be more profitable in a metropolitan area about the size of Birmingham as opposed to one more comparable to Phoenix.

Basically, a few rich guys want to be able to watch NBA basketball courtside without catching a flight, so they went and got a squad. Think someone’s special for having a house in the Hamptons? These cats bought the Hamptons, and put it down the street from their houses. They win.

Clay Bennett’s not a popular man in Seattle. But do you blame him for wanting an NBA team in his hometown? If ever there was an example where a town owed its tax dollars to a professional owner, this is it. Bennett and company put up $350 million so Oklahoma City could have an NBA team. The least Oklahomans could do is put something in the hat.

Yet, as reptilian as this whole ordeal has been, there’s something admirable about what Bennett’s doing, too. Oklahoma City never would have gotten an expansion franchise, no matter how fantastic the crowds were while OKC served as the Hornets’ foster city. Bennett’s audacity, all the way down to the bald-faced whoppers he’s told since he bought the team, have a quality that isn’t entirely repulsive. This probably isn’t Bennett’s dream, but it’s certainly his wish, and it’s amazing that he has come so close to making it come true.

Well, the NBA wasn’t going to expand into Birmingham (the 40th Nielsen DMA, five steps above Oklahoma City) either, and Jefferson County has troubles of its own these days.

But Jones understands what’s going on here:

It’s capitalism run amok, but it’s can’t-miss theater. And, deep down, I get it.

And if there’s anything they hate in places like Seattle, it’s capitalism that dares to run amok. Down here we revel in the sheer wackiness of it all. It wasn’t so long ago that OG&E wanted to build a new coal-fired power plant, and Chesapeake Energy, a major natural-gas producer, took out Oklahoman advertising to blast them for any number of sins, the worst of which, of course, was not using natural gas. (The nerve!) Chesapeake, not incidentally, is run by Aubrey McLendon, one of Bennett’s partners in Sonics ownership, who was fined a quarter of a million by the NBA for having had the temerity to suggest that they might indeed want to move this team they’d bought. It’s theater, and we’ve got the cast for it.

Still, “isn’t entirely repulsive” does manage to include, by definition, a fair amount of actual repulsion, and, at bottom, it should.

Addendum, 6 pm: At least somebody in Seattle knows how to play this game. Previous owner Howard Schultz is planning to sue the current ownership. Bravo, Mr Schultz. As remediation, it’s not likely to work, but as theater, it’s fabulous.

Addendum, 20 April: Mr Jones goes through his mail, which is not overly complimentary.

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A night at the comic opera

Roberta X on that Obama utterance:

Y’know, the Democrats used to at least pretend to be in touch. It’s not so much that the gloves are off as the mask has slipped.

But … but Democrats care! It says so right on the bumper sticker!

“[I]n much the same way that a dairy farmer cares about cattle or the guys in Brokeback Mountain cared about sheep,” Tam replies.

Meanwhile, this from Lileks:

What annoyed me about the Obama comments was the crude reduction of everything into economic terms, the most dismal prism through which to regard humanity. So the factories close, and the sullen mass of the lowly workers ball their fists, feel a strange sour bolus of resentment bolting up their throat, and think: must — channel — confusing — emotions — into — unreasoning — opposition — to — redefining — marriage. If the factories magically reappear, does everyone sigh with relief, quit church and drop off their guns? I have money! No need for the Magic Carpenter and that poorly-worded amendment. Call off the border patrol, too — there’ll be jobs and upward wage pressure for everyone. It’s not exactly an unusual thesis; I’ve encountered it for years. People cannot possibly believe these crazy things for their own sake; they must be driven to them by external forces.

And those things we “cling” to? They’re guaranteed by the Constitution:

The Second Amendment permits me my weapons; the First Amendment permits me my faith and whatever “sentiments” I may embrace. The notion that I should not be allowed such “sentiments” is wholly un-American. (In fact, it’s Canadian.)

It’s times like this I almost wish we had Joe Biden back in the race. Almost.

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A tights situation

If I close my eyes and think of Ann Miller, I see a big smile and glorious gams.

Well, she never did much to advance the technology of the smile, but she did come up with one innovation for the legs:

TCM aired a 1997 interview yesterday [Private Screenings, hosted by Robert Osborne] in which she discussed her long career. Among the highlights: She invented pantyhose. Miller complained to a hosiery maker that she had to have her silk stockings sewn to her dress and undergarments for every costume change. If she got a run in her stockings, they’d have to rip everything apart and sew on a new one. “Why can’t we have what ballet dancers have but with silk stockings?”

It wasn’t until 1953 that anyone decided to produce mass quantities of the new garment, and only in 1959 was a finished product available, from North Carolina-based Glen Raven Mills. But pantyhose really didn’t catch on until the rise, as it were, of the miniskirt; the exposure of stocking tops was subsequently deemed unsightly.

The sheer stuff is out of fashion these days, though textures and colors are coming back into vogue (and into Vogue). If I see any this spring, I’ll remember to think of Ann Miller. It won’t be any trouble, believe me.

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Even works in the dark

Which, of course, is its undoing, as Fits explains:

flashlight plus shotgun

Press the CORRECT button, and the flashlight fires a .410 shotgun round from out the back.

Press the WRONG button when trying to simply illuminate something, and the flashlight fires a .410 shotgun round into you.

File under “What were they thinking?”

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Resistance is, um, unlikely

Robert Farago, editor of The Truth About Cars, comes up with a metatruth of sorts:

A Brown University business professor once told me that one of America’s greatest strengths is its ability to assimilate anything. While Bill O’Reilly rants on and on about our capitalistic society’s moral degradation — like one of those nose-hair-infested codgers who starts every sentence with “Back in MY day” — our profit-driven culture is actually extremely healthy. It takes the worst possible elements, sanitizes them and sells them into the mainstream. White suburban teens listen to gangsta rap while studying for their SATs. The gangstas end up on Cribs, showing the world what’s in their closet-sized Sub-Zero. SUVs are following a similar pattern. These planet-killas are gradually being domesticated into CUVs. The new Honda Pilot’s obvious visual reference to its “no gallon of gas left unguzzled” SUV ancestors is just window dressing. I’m sure it’s suitably frugal and considerably cleaner than Bill O’Reilly’s phone calls.

Well, back in MY day, we had people a lot more interesting than Bill O’Reilly to rail about moral degradation. (Face it: Frederic Wertham got a lot more traction than O’Reilly and William Bennett combined.)

Perhaps this is merely restating the obvious; most of us, I suspect, would like to be thought of as more interesting than we actually are, and our various high-zoot accoutrements contribute to that desire — except when we think that perhaps that interest will be whetted by accoutrements of decidedly lower zoot. “Shabby chic” wasn’t entirely an oxymoron. And as the Doobie Brothers once noted, what were once vices are now habits, a factor in O’Reilly’s presumably-permanent dismay.

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I thought it sounded familiar

I’m not quite sure exactly what axe this site intends to grind, but it’s definitely short on original content: this particular post is a rewrite — well, a retype, anyway — of Vent #477. Uncredited, of course.

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Let there be remixes and mashups

I’d mentioned earlier that I was buying the new Nine Inch Nails set, Ghosts I-IV. I paid ten bucks plus shipping for the basic two-CD set, which came with a single download opportunity before the actual discs were pressed. Downloadable files, though, don’t generally tell you things like this, which I found in the CD booklet:

This album is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial Share Alike license. More information:


This license [by-nc-sa] lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. Others can download and redistribute your work just like the by-nc-nd license, but they can also translate, make remixes, and produce new stories based on your work. All new work based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also be non-commercial in nature.

As for the 36 tracks themselves, to me they sound like building blocks, parts of a yet-unreleased, maybe even yet-unconceived whole. Maybe that’s the whole point: NIN provides the raw materials, and you create your own version thereof. You’d do that anyway, inside your head, but the licensing on Ghosts I-IV hints that Reznor is interested in other interpretations besides his own. No wonder he never got along with record companies.

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